Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 6, 2012

First Pass Editing List

I am reading a very good book written by K.L. Going titled, Writing & Selling the YA Novel. Some of you may remember when she was an agent at Curtis Brown, before leaving to start her author career. Her first novel Fat Kid Rules the the World,  was named a Michael Printz honor book by the ALA, as well as one of the Best Books for Young Adults from the past decade. You can visit her at

Below is an excerpt from Writing & Selling the YA Novel to give you a flavor for the book.  If you write YA you might want to consider checking it out when you are in your local bookstore. 

Here is a list of some things you might watch for on you first pass of editing:

  • How do you feel about the sotry? Do you still enjoy it? Do you have any trouble suspending your disbelief?
  • Check your pacing.  Are you turning the pages to see what happens next or is the text to wordy or slow?  Could the tension be taken up a notch or do events seem to occur organically, as if they couldn’t happen in any oyher way?
  • Watch for passages that seem self-indulgent.  Samuel Johnson once said, “Read over your compositions and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”  While this might be a bit extreme, you do waqnt to be aware of flowery pawssages that draw attention away from the sotry and to the writing itself.
  • Keep an ear out for dialogue that sounds fake, and an eye out for long passages of uninterrupted text that might be changed into dialogue.
  • See how you feel about your characters.  Are you rooting for or despising the correct people?  Do any of them get on you nerves?  Do the secondary characters take over the book?
  • How’s the ending?  Does the story seem to stop abruptly as if it suddenly plowed over a cliff?  Or does it drag?  Should it have ended serveral pages earlier?
  • How’s your beginning?  Do you have a good opening line?  Do you start with the action right away or does it take several pages before you begin the real story?
  • Does information get passed along through the narrator telling the reader or through the reader seeing it for himself in active scenes?
  • If you’re writing humor, do you laugh in the right places?  If you’re writing horror, do you jump in the right palces?  If you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, are the rules of your world consistent or do they shift throught the book?
  • Does your setting seem vivid, like a snapshot?  Does it evoke the intended emotion?
  • What can you strengthen to take the book from good to great?

In a good book, everything is woven together tightly and every change you make will affect the whole.  Small changes can have big effects.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that every solution must be drastic.  Large issues can sometimes hinge on single sentences.


Make sure you take a look at Kelly’s website.  She has a new picture book, DOG IN CHARGE and it is illustrated by Dan Santat and that in iself is pretty good.  Looks like it is one for your bookshelf!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the tips. They are always helpful when it comes to editing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: